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London Olympics feared opening ceremony cyber attack

Jul 9, 2013, 4:05 AM EST

London Olympic opening ceremony Reuters

Fears that the lights would be turned off by a cyber attack during the London Olympic opening ceremony led to extensive precautions from officials, according to the BBC.

The head of cyber security for the 2012 Games was woken on July 27, 2012, the day of the opening ceremony, at 4:45 a.m. by a phone call.

“There was a suggestion that there was a credible attack on the electricity infrastructure supporting the Games,” Olympic cyber security head Oliver Hoare told BBC Radio 4. “And the first reaction to that is, ‘Goodness, you know, let’s make a strong cup of coffee.’”

The initial response to the threat came from the Olympic Cyber Co-ordination Team (OCCT), based at MI5 headquarters in Thames House.

There were two priorities. The first was to investigate how credible the threat might be. The information had come in overnight and was based on the discovery of attack tools and targeting information that it was thought at the time might relate to the Olympics.

While this investigation continued, officials also put in place contingency plans in case the attack materialised. Time was not on their side. “The clock was absolutely ticking,” recalled Mr Hoare, who worked first for the Olympic Delivery Authority and then the Government Olympic Executive.

Thirty minutes before the opening ceremony, Hoare asked someone for a status update.

“Good news,” he was told. “If the lights go down we can get them up and running regardless within 30 seconds.”

Hoare’s response?

“Thirty seconds at the opening ceremony with the lights going down would have been catastrophic in terms of reputational hit,” he said. “So I watched the opening ceremony with a great deal of trepidation.”

Hoare did so at his home with his family, twitching every time the lights dimmed.

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